In April 2007, Arnoud and René travelled to Marettimo in the Egadi islands off Sicily to photograph and sound record Mediterranean Storm Petrels Hydrobates melitensis for our book Petrels night and day (2008). While visiting Sicily, they also took the opportunity to catch up with some Sicilian specialities.

On the northern slopes of Mount Etna there are old lava fields where Sicilian Partridges Alectoris whitakeri make their home. Plenty of places to hide: sound recording them proved easier than making photographs. Etna has extensive forests of Black Pine Pinus nigra, and Red Crossbills Loxia curvirostra are fairly common. The individuals Arnoud sound recorded do not belong to one of the widespread northern European vocal types, and probably constitute a local, resident population.

Mount Soro in northern Sicily has two endemic subspecies of tits. Sicilian Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus siculus looks very distinctive indeed, but its sounds are not strikingly different from those of other European populations of Long-tailed Tit. By contrast, Sicilian Marsh Tit Poecile palustris siculus uses more melodic song variants than its northern relatives. Beyond Sicily, we have never recorded a song type like the one presented here.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans is a common species in Sicily, with a turbulent taxonomic history. It was only in the last few years that populations from Sicily and southern Italy (nominate cantillans) came to be included in Eastern Subalpine, together with the eastern subspecies albistriata. However, calls from Sicily are rarely a doubled tret as those of albistriata tend to be. There is still much work to be done in unravelling song differences between the members of the subalpine warbler complex.

Sicily, Italy

Habitat of Sicilian Partridge Alectoris whitakeri: lava field near Castiglione, Sicily, Italy, 15 April 2007 (René Pop)

Sicilian Partridge Alectoris whitakeri, Castiglione, Sicily, Italy, 7:51, 15 April 2007 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Songs of two individuals. Background: Eurasian Magpie Pica pica, Hooded Crow Corvus cornix, Woodlark Lullula arborea, Common Blackbird Turdus merula and Eastern Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans.

Sicily, Italy

Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy, 21 April 2007 (René Pop)

Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy, 12:43, 21 April 2007 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of two males, presumably from the resident population. Background: Coal Tit Periparus ater and picnic-goers.

Sicily, Italy

Sicilian Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus siculus, Monte Soro, Sicily, Italy, 16 April 2007 (René Pop)

Sicilian Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus siculus, Monte Soro, Sicily, Italy, 17:21, 20 April 2007 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Various calls from a pair. Background: Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus, Hooded Crow Corvus cornix, Woodlark Lullula arborea and Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs.

Sicily, Italy

Sicilian Marsh Tit Poecile palustris siculus, Monte Soro, Sicily, Italy, 14 April 2007 (René Pop)

Sicilian Marsh Tit Poecile palustris siculus, Monte Soro, Sicily, Italy, 19:04, 14 April 2007 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Rippling, melodic song type. Background: Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus and European Robin Erithacus rubecula.

Sicily, Italy

Eastern Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans cantillans, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy, 16 April 2007 (René Pop). Tail pattern atypical for Eastern, which usually has a white wedge from the tip along the inner web of t5. Broad white moustache and red largely limited to throat are more typical of Eastern. Svensson (2013), shows some individuals lacking the white wedge on t5.

Svensson, L 2013. Subalpine Warbler variation and taxonomy. British Birds 106: 651-668.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans cantillans, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy, 08:04, 16 April 2007 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of a male. Background: Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops, Woodlark Lullula arborea and Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus.